The growing tensions over trade between the United States and China temporarily eased after a meeting between President Trump and China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, earlier this month. But at the same time distrust between the two countries, and now Canada, has escalated over the detentions of a leading Chinese executive in Canada and two Canadians in China.
Here is a look at the recent rise in trans-Pacific tensions, and what could happen next.
A trade dispute deferred
Mr. Trump has confronted China over its trade practices, and the United States has imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods this year. China retaliated with its own tariffs on a range of American imports.
The escalating tariffs brought ties between the two countries to one of their lowest points in recent years, but at their meeting in Buenos Aires during the Group of 20 summit meeting, Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi agreed to a truce. The United States would delay a tariff increase on $200 billion worth of goods set for Jan. 1 while the two sides negotiated a more permanent deal, with a March 1 deadline.
China also agreed to lift barriers on cars, food and fuel from the United States and has increased imports of some products, including soybeans. But China has tried to balance its softer approach on trade with fierce criticism of the detention of one of its top tech executives, events that have unfolded almost simultaneously.
A star Chinese executive is arrested
Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei, arriving at a parole office with a security guard in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday.CreditDarryl Dyck/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press
On Dec. 1, the same day that Mr. Trump and Mr. Xi met in Argentina, a top executive at the Chinese technology company Huawei — who is also the daughter of its founder — was stopped at Vancouver International Airport. The executive, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested at the request of the American authorities, who accused her of misleading financial institutions into violating United States sanctions on Iran.
Ms. Meng, Huawei’s finance chief, was a well-known representative of China’s technological clout, often appearing at events around the world. Her arrest set off indignation in China, and the government summoned the American ambassador, Terry Branstad, to complain. Communist Party media outlets criticized her treatment and warned of consequences for Canada.
“Only by correcting its mistake, immediately ending its violation of a Chinese citizen’s lawful and legitimate rights and giving the Chinese people a due explanation, can Canada avoid paying a heavy price,” the People’s Daily newspaper said in an editorial on Sunday.
Ms. Meng was granted bail of 10 million Canadian dollars, or about $7.5 million, on Tuesday. While she awaits extradition to the United States, she plans to pay for her own 24-hour physical and electronic monitoring and will be subject to a curfew between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.
The detention of two Canadians in China, apparently in retaliation for Ms. Meng’s arrest, added to the pressure Canada faces.
On Monday, a former Canadian diplomat was detained by the Beijing bureau of the Ministry of State Security. The former diplomat, Michael Kovrig, is senior adviser for Northeast Asia at the International Crisis Group, a nongovernmental organization that works to reduce violent conflict. The group said it had received no information since Mr. Kovrig’s detention and was concerned for his health and safety.
On Wednesday came word that another Canadian citizen had been questioned by the Chinese authorities and then detained. That person, Michael Spavor, is a writer and entrepreneur based in northeast China who has traveled extensively in North Korea.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday that the two Canadians were being held and were under investigation by state security officers in Beijing and Liaoning Province in northeast China on suspicion of “engaging in activities that endangered China’s national security.”
Under a 2016 law that has had a chilling effect on foreign nonprofits working in China, representatives of unregistered nongovernmental organizations can be held for as long as 15 days and deported. But a separate national security investigation could involve far more serious charges.